Home About Labradors History of the Fox Red Lab

History of the Fox Red Lab


The fox red Lab, or Ruby Labrador, is a beautiful dog that has the color of a red fox. Dark yellow or fox red was the original shade of the developing breed in its early years. Originally, yellows were called “golden” until they were to be registered with the British Kennel Club. They argued that “gold” was not truly a color, so they were labeled “yellow.” The first yellow lab on record was “Ben of Hyde” in 1899. Early on, yellow was the norm and most labs were a butterscotch or dark golden with tinges of red. Yellow continued to be the most predominant color of lab until after World War II. Over time, the lighter colors became more popular and the original color was nearly lost.

Sadly, during the earliest days, the fox red labs were culled at birth. The breed was considered working dogs to be used for hunting pursuits. Hunters preferred the black lab over other, lighter colors. Red labs and other colors were looked on less favorably for field dogs. However, over time paler colors which were rare became the preference perhaps because of their rarity. Breeders became more interested in gold and fox red shades in the 1980’s. Since then and particularly over the last 10 to 15 years, darker yellows and red Labrador retrievers have continued to rise in popularity with breeders.

Breeding the Rare Fox Red Lab

The AKC only recognizes three colors of Labrador retrievers: chocolate, yellow, and black. Although these can come in various shades, there are two very rare colors produced from the black and yellow: fox red and silver. The silver lab may be classified as either yellow or chocolate while the fox red is classified as the deepest degree of the yellow lab. Both of these colors are rare and the AKC doesn’t have a high regard for the silver lab as it is believed the breed is mixed to obtain the color.

Within the spectrum of yellow labs, there can be varying shades of the red color. The pup’s true color may not be certain until the pup is between 20 and 24 months old. A pup may appear fox red at birth but fade inside the first few weeks. True coat color may be difficult to determine for certain until the pup gains their adult coat. This is true for chocolate labs too. The coat color can lighten or darken as they mature. When you look at a pup remember you are looking at the undercoat, not guard hairs. The undercoat may appear to be a tan color about the same color as a brown paper bag. As they mature the guard hairs grow and may be much lighter or darker than they were to begin with. However, oftentimes, the head and the ears can reveal the true color rather than the body. Examining the head and ears may provide a better hint of the mature dog’s final coloring. You can also tell more by looking at the underlying pigment rather than just their young coat.

True fox red lab can be achieved by matching parents with specific traits. But it’s never certain you’ll get what you are looking for. Even in a single litter of all fox reds, the pups will have coats of varying shades from light to dark.

The Red Fox Lab and White Spots

Many labs have signature white spots, usually located on their chest. The fox red Lab retriever is more likely to have a white spot than other colors. White spots are common with any of the yellow labs. It’s not as noticeable on the lighter shades of yellow and many people don’t even realize it’s there until a more thorough examination. The fox red Lab is on the darker end of the yellow labs, so the white spot tends to stand out more. In black labs, since the gene pool is so much larger, the white spot has been almost bred completely out. To have the white spot, both parents typically have it as well. The gene pool is smaller in the fox red Labrador retriever color, so about half a litter should be expected to have white spots.

Temperament of Red Labs

No matter what the color of their coat, Labrador retrievers are mild-natured dogs. In general, they love being around people. Their eagerness to please and intelligence makes them easily trained. They will usually bark at a stranger, but they are usually too friendly to make a good guard dog. They’re more likely to seek affection from an intruder rather than charge at or attack them. Labs tend to be even-tempered and laid back. Labrador retrievers of all coat colors typically do well around children and other pets.  Even from a young age, Labrador retrievers are very active and crave lots of attention. If left on their own too long, they will probably become a bit mischievous.

As a general rule, the fox red Lab doesn’t have any huge differences from other labs when it comes to personality. Recall that they are really a darker shade of the yellow Labrador. Fox reds are generally considered a bit more vocal than some of the other labs. They also tend to stick more closely to their family. They may not want to let you out of their sight for any amount of time. When they are separated for any amount of time, this may be when they are more vocal.

Health Issues and the Fox Red Lab

As for their health, PRA is always a major health concern. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is common in most breeds including the lab. It turns out that the fox red Labrador retriever is likely to carry the genetic eye disease. To protect litters, pre-screening the parents and making sure at least one parent is cleared from having the genes will protect the pups from being affected. The Optigen test is enough to clear a parent and ensure their pups will not be affected by the gene.

Will a Fox Red Labrador Retriever Cost Me More?

Most of the time, a breeder charges more for fox red Lab retriever puppies. There are a few reasons this may occur. On one hand, it’s a matter of supply and demand. The supply of red lab puppies isn’t close enough to meet all those who would like a lab of this shade. Many feel breeders shouldn’t charge more for any puppy based on its coat color. However, in different regions, you may find that breeders charge more since there are fewer available. Many times, however, this is just due to the lack of supply in that particular area. There can be some extra expenses if you need to have the puppy transported to your location. Also, breeders can tend to keep fox red litters longer than other lab puppies which might add a small amount to the care and cost.

Red Fox Labrador Retriever as Show Dogs

When it comes to official dog show standards, there are only three colors of labs recognized: solid black, chocolate which covers medium to dark brown, and yellow which includes anything from light cream to fox red Labrador retrievers. If you want your fox red lab to participate it will need to exhibit the following characteristics based on the show standards:

  • Size & Appearance: Labradors are considered medium-large, but not a compact breed. The appearance of your fox red lab should be proportional. Males should measure between 22.5 and 24.5 inches tall at the withers. They should weigh between 65 and 80 pounds. Female red labs should stand between 21.5 and 23.5 inches tall and weigh between 55 and 70 pounds.
  • Coats: Show dogs should have a short, dense coat that is not wiry. Their coat should be water resistant and slightly dry, but oily so it repels water. There are three color classifications, and yellow labs vary greatly, the color of their coats should be solid.
  • Body: The body of a fox red Labrador retriever should be muscular and strong and have a level top line.
  • Jaws: Jaws should be powerful and strong. Their muzzle should not be too tapered and be of medium length. Jowls should curve back gracefully and hang slightly.
  • Head: A red lab participating in a competition should have brown or hazel eyes with a black lining. Ears should hang loosely, but close to the head and be located just about eye level.

Since the 1980’s, dark yellow or fox red Labrador retriever dogs haven’t done well in show rings. There were several reasons for this uphill battle. Judges in the UK in particular had preconceived ideas about what labs should look like, and what color they should be. This tainted the judging somewhat in the UK and trends in North America shared this sentiment. The good news is that breeders have been able to demonstrate the exceptional true colors of the yellow/red lab. Recently, several fox red labs have done very well in the show ring across the US. In 2011, history was made when the first AKC registered fox red Labrador retriever, Dancer, achieved Champion status in the United States.